Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields confirmed to the News-Press today that the City will formally request a public hearing be established by the board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority at its next meeting on July 21 for purposes of reinstating the 3T bus line that ran through the heart of the City but was abruptly terminated late last month.
The 3T bus line had provided service along Route 7 (W. Broad Street) between the West Falls Church and East Falls Church Metro stations and then proceeding through Pimmit Hills to a new Silver Line Metrorail station in Tysons Corner.
Clearly, its primary ridership service was to citizens of Falls Church, a half dozen of whom showed up last week to protest the termination of the 3T and 28X routes along Route 7 when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, board chair Jack Evans and acting chief operating officer Jack Requa were in town to address the Falls Church City Council at its twice-monthly public business meeting.
Shields told the News-Press that in response to those citizen concerns, most coming from residents of the historic Winter Hill condominium complex (formerly a post-World War II GI loan residential development known as Tyler Gardens), WMATA was back in touch with the City right away in a letter to Mayor David Tarter and Shields spelling out the reasons (financial) for the decision to terminate the lines.
“Their response had everything to do with the public hearing last week,” Shields said. “They got right back to us and provided basic information about the cost of the service, which was funded by Fairfax County.”
He said the communication suggested that were the 3T line to be reinstated, the City of Falls Church would have to bear the cost at a net of about $675,000 a year. “An evaluation of the ridership and cost recovery data will be further pursued,” he said, as well as data on increasing the number of trips on the 28A line, the one remaining bus line that runs the length of W. Broad (Route 7) in the City.
The 28X line, which used to also run that route until late last month, has been revised to serve a different route connecting the East Falls Church Metro to the Seven Corners Transit Center and the Mark Center in Alexandria.
The City’s interest in reinstating and improving bus service along W. Broad is not only to see that existing City residents’ needs are met, but to provide service for the hundreds of new City residents that will be occupying the 301 W. Broad apartment building as it is being completed, and other large scale mixed use projects along that route either approved for construction – such as the Mason Row project at the southeast corner of W. Broad and N. West Streets – or soon to be entering the approval process, including one at the corner of W. Broad and S. Spring Street and a new hotel in the 400 block of W. Broad.
Concerning WMATA’s interest in developing its three dozen acres adjacent the West Falls Church Metro, potentially in partnership with the City of Falls Church’s development of its own three dozen acres of the adjacent “Campus Redevelopment Project,” Shields said there is also cause for optimism.
“Actually, we have been in steady contact with WMATA about that property for the last three years,” he said, including a meeting as recently a two months ago. “They’d stopped their own planning on the site, which they’d done in the past, and we’re asking them to re-engage that effort.”
He said there will be plenty of time to dovetail their planning efforts with those of the City of Falls Church if they re-engage.
The good thing from the appearance of Evans and Requa at last week’s F.C. City Council meeting, which was scheduled as a perfunctory effort by WMATA to explain the delays and disruptions that the “Safe Track” program of emergency and comprehensive repairs of the entire 170-mile D.C. area-wide Metrorail system, is that “the issues of concern to Falls Church, including development at the West Falls Church Metrorail site, “[have] been raised to the highest level” at WMATA.